Category Archives: Natural Living

NATURAL REMEDIES FOR ALLERGY SUFFERERS

187419911fall allergiesWhether you suffer from seasonal allergies or develop symptoms from exposure to dust or pet dander, finding relief can be a frustrating search. Moderate or severe allergies require the treatment of a qualified doctor, especially if over-the-counter products offer little results. If you have mild symptoms and prefer not to take medication for them, several natural remedies might be worth a try. Always consult with your physician before taking any natural remedy, especially if you have a chronic health condition, are pregnant or already take medication for other reasons.

I go with a common sense approach. Avoid the substance that triggers your symptoms whenever possible, even if it means staying indoors when climactic factors are at their worst. Get plenty of sleep, and don’t tax your immune system with smoking, a high consumption of alcohol, or by eating foods that cause even a mild stomach upset. Vitamin C supplements can also support a healthy immune system. This allows your body to use all of its natural resources fighting the adverse effects of allergies.

Some promising studies and clinical trials on the European herb butterbur (Petastites hybridus) are creating a stir in some circles of allergists and immunologists. Taken in tablets, it shows possibilities as an effective anti-histamine for controlling hay fever symptoms. Watch for more developing news on this substance as it is further researched.

Nettle, goldenseal, grape seed extract and quercetin are other natural remedies that can be effective, sometimes in combination with a saline solution. Consult a qualified naturopath for complete information and correct administration of any natural remedy.

Other practical steps I have listed below can be taken within your home environment to alleviate symptoms of allergies:

  • Wear a good dust mask while cleaning, and use damp dusting cloths to prevent particles from flying through the air and into your respiratory system.
  • Install blinds instead of curtains or drapes. Use washable throw rugs and tile, ceramic, wood or laminate flooring in place of wall-to-wall carpet. Wash bedding and rugs in hot water whenever possible to kill dust mites.
  • Keep pets out of bedrooms.
  • Keep windows closed during peak allergy hours and seasons. Use air conditioning if possible. If you must work outside, remove your shoes before coming into the house, and remove your clothing to the laundry room immediately.
  • One of the most effective methods of reducing allergy symptoms is investing in a central vacuum system. Unlike traditional vacuum systems, even those equipped with HEPA filters, a central vacuum hose suctions virtually all dust, allergens and particulate matter from your home, then transports it through a series of tubes between your walls to a sealed container away from your main living spaces, such as a basement, closet, garage or attic. A central vacuum system can be easily installed and retro-fitted to an existing home in as little as one day. It has the added advantage of being easy on the back. There is no lugging around of a vacuum cleaner, just a portable hose that connects to specially installed outlets throughout your home. Some models even allow for the hose to be stored in the wall, so all you do is pull it out, vacuum, and then let it retract back into the wall.

CREATIVE CENTERPIECES: USING WHAT YOU HAVE

Florist with tulipsMany people who enjoy entertaining avoid the question of a table centerpiece until the last minute—or often altogether. If you claim you aren’t creative enough to arrange your own table flowers, or loathe spending the money on a purchased centerpiece only to end up with a stiff, unimaginative triangle of blooms for your trouble, try these suggestions. I have found that many lovely centerpieces can be put together quickly and inexpensively using materials you already own.

  • Keep it simple and striking, especially if you are pressed for time. Generously fill a large glass cylinder vase with one type of flower that suits the season and style of the occasion. Sunflowers, tulips, daisies and even cut branches are all good choices. If you’re on a budget, don’t be afraid to use the stuff growing freely in ditches and open fields, like Queen Anne’s Lace, wild daylilies, sweet peas or Black-eyed Susans. For an extra flair, add some small votive candles that pick up the color of the flowers, or stick with classic white.
  • An interesting mirror makes a stunning base for a centerpiece, with the reflection of flowers and candles giving you twice the effect, especially for evening gatherings. Scour discount stores, garage sales and flea markets for the mirrors—just make sure the size is appropriate for your table. Also, try using several small mirrors of varying sizes on a table, placing a different size or color candle on each.
  • One of the easiest and reliably attractive ways to dress your table: fill a beautiful glass bowl three-fourths full with water and float one or two spectacular flowers in it.
  • If you happen to have a handful of pretty bottles around the house—clear glass, old wine bottles, or cobalt blue are especially nice—place a single stem of bloom in each and weave them in a line down your table.
  • Fabric is an element that can be incorporated into centerpieces. Scarves, cloth napkins and bandannas can all be used to loosely wrap otherwise plain containers. Add flowers that match the mood and your table will be instantly accessorized.
  • Buy potted flowers from the grocery store and arrange them in a handsome bowl or basket. Arranging them snugly will allow you to tilt them at angles to create a rounded, natural shape overall.
  • If you have the time, you can make an arresting centerpiece by potting up some of what is in full bloom in your garden and displaying it in a gorgeous ceramic bowl or terra cotta pot. Try to do this a day in advance to give the plant time to acclimate to indoor surroundings. You can replant it later or use it as a container planting outside after your party.

Rule of thumb for table flowers: They should enhance the occasion, not distract from it. Centerpieces should be no taller than about 12 inches so as not to prevent seated guests from seeing each other over the top of the flowers. This rule can be bent somewhat if you have a very tall, elegant arrangement with a visual mass that rises above the heads of seated guests. Be careful not to get top heavy with it, though; you don’t want something so precarious it can crash into someone’s plate. Also, if you are serving buffet style, do not place lit candles where guests need to reach over them. Sleeves can easily catch on fire in such situations.

 

WHY AND HOW TO CLEAN BIRDFEEDERS

birds feedingBirds live outdoors among all manner of dirt, bugs and weather, so why, you might argue, would a soiled birdfeeder be of any concern, as long as it’s filled with the things birds eat?

I found out there’s plenty of good cause to keep your feeders clean.

Birdseed that becomes damp or rotten harbors bacteria and disease that can quickly spread throughout a flock, decimating a local population. Also, rancid seed smells bad, which attracts predators such as raccoons and rats that not only present a danger and nuisance, but that can also carry disease.

Feeders should be cleaned once a month in dry weather and once every few weeks in warm, damp weather. Bird food high in fat content, such as suet, is even more prone to turning rancid. For best results, take apart the pieces of the feeder and scrub with a bottle brush thoroughly with dish soap, or a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water. Rinse well and allow the feeder to dry thoroughly. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned with each refill. Plastic feeders can usually be safely cleaned in the top rack of a dishwasher.

Take care, as well, to remove piles of old seed or husks from around the base of the feeder, where bacteria can also grow. Refresh mulch or gravel under feeders periodically to cover bird feces.

MICROWAVE CLEANING THE EASY WAY

Microwave ovens have become a kitchen essential for many, if not most, households. Problem is, once we shut the microwave door, it’s easy to forget about the spilled or splattered food accumulating on its interior….until the next time we go to use it. By that time, it’s hardened into a stubborn residue.

Good news: there’s no need for scrubbing or harsh chemicals to get your microwave sparkling clean and smelling fresh. Try one of these three simple, low-cost techniques, depending on what you have on hand:

Close-up of lemons in a wicker basket on white1. Squeeze the juice of a whole lemon into a cup of water in a microwave safe bowl. Heat the mixture in the microwave for three minutes. Careful—it will be hot! Remove the bowl with mitts and set aside. Wipe down the steamed residue from the interior of the oven with damp paper towels.

2. Follow the same directions above, using vinegar in place of lemon juice. After the vinegar solution cools, you can dip a sponge into it and wipe down the microwave interior again, which will neutralize odors. (For added value, after you clean your microwave, shake a dollop of baking soda into your kitchen sink, followed by the vinegar solution. Wipe down and rinse. Your sink will sparkle from the mild scrubbing and foaming action, and the solution will deodorize the drain).

3. Dissolve a half cup of baking soda in two cups of water in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for two minutes until solution boils, then let cool enough to remove. Dip sponge in baking soda solution (wear gloves as it will be hot) and wipe down interior of microwave.

Stubborn burnt popcorn smell bugging you? After cleaning the oven with one of the above methods, try one of these techniques, depending on your preference for fragrances. Mix a few teaspoons of ground coffee in a ceramic cup of water and place the cup in a bowl. Heat for two minutes. Remove bowl and cup with mitts. Wipe down interior of microwave with damp paper towels. As an alternative, put four teaspoons of vanilla extract in a bowl of water and heat for two minutes. Remove bowl with mitts, and wipe down interior of microwave with damp paper towels.